As amphibians leap toward extinction, alliance pushes "The Year of the Frog"
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
December 31, 2007
The coalition, dubbed "Amphibian Ark", is calling 2008 "The Year of the Frog" in an effort to raise awareness on the plight of dying amphibians, at least 165 types of which are believed to have gone extinct since 1980. Amphibian Ark is seeking to raise $50-60 million as part of a 5-year $400 million Amphibian Conservation Action Plan to establish captive breeding programs for the 500 most threatened species.
While scientists have yet to identify a smoking gun, climate change, pollution, and the emergence of Chytridiomycosis, a deadly and infectious fungal disease which has been linked to global warming and is blamed for one-third of amphibian extinctions since 1980, are the leading suspects for the observed decline.
The giant monkey frog of Peru is known for its mind-altering skin secretions. Shamans in the Amazon rain forest have used this species in hunting rituals. Like other amphibians from around the world, the giant monkey frog is threatened by climate change and habitat loss. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
Nevertheless few scientists dispute that the many amphibians populations are at great risk of extinction unless drastic measures are taken. Accordingly, Amphibian Ark (AArk) is focusing on captive management efforts or "ex-situ" conservation to buy critical time for the most threatened species.
"The AArk program will rescue priority endangered species and place them in 'protective custody' in dedicated biosecure facilities at zoos, aquariums, and other institutions around the world for safekeeping and breeding, helping to ensure the long-term survival of amphibians," stated a report from Amphibian Ark. "These rescued amphibians will be released back into the wild when the original threats have been controlled."
Tree frog in Peru. According to the Global Amphibian Assessment, a comprehensive status assessment of the world's amphibian species, one-third of the world's 5,918 known amphibian species are classified as threatened with extinction.
Tomato frog in Madagascar. This species releases a sticky glue-like secretion that protects it against colubrid snakes, cats, and dogs. The secreted substance can produce an allergic reaction in humans as well. Photos by Rhett A. Butler
Amphibian Ark says its effort could help prevent this fate, by saving other endangered animals and demonstrating the role that zoos and other facilities can play in global conservation.
"The crisis provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the world that zoos and aquariums are valid and powerful conservation partners. Zoos and aquariums must not stand by and watch hundreds of these exquisite species become extinct in our lifetime — especially when ex situ captive breeding provides a viable, yet simple, solution," said the alliance in a statement. "If we do not respond immediately and on an unprecedented scale, much of an entire vertebrate class will be lost, and we will have failed in our most basic conservation mission."
Scientists find treatment for killer frog disease
(10/29/2007) New Zealand scientists have found a treatment for a disease blamed for the death of millions of amphibians worldwide, according to a report from BBC News. However, at best, the cure would only be applicable to captive populations. The disease is killing many amphibians in apparently pristine habitats.
(5/23/2007) Scientists have discovered a possible treatment for the fungal disease that has killed millions of amphibians worldwide. Presenting Wednesday at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Toronto, Professor Reid N. Harris at James Madison University reported that Pedobacter cryoconitis, a bacteria found naturally on the skin of red-backed salamanders, wards off the deadly chytridiomycosis fungus, an infection cited as a contributing factor to the global decline in amphibians observed over the past three decades.
(4/18/2007) Poison arrow frogs appear to make special effort to avoid exposure to damaging ultraviolet-B radiation, according to research published in the journal Biotropica. The findings are significant in light of increasing levels of UV-B radiation due to ozone depletion.
(4/16/2007) Chilling new evidence suggests amphibians may be in worse shape than previously thought due to climate change. Further, the findings indicate that the 70 percent decline in amphibians over the past 35 years may have been exceeded by a sharp fall in reptile populations, even in otherwise pristine Costa Rican habitats. Ominously, the new research warns that protected areas strategies for biodiversity conservation will not be enough to stave off extinction. Frogs and their relatives are in big trouble.